Rooney: self-titled

Gary Glauber



Label: Interscope
US Release Date: 2003-06-24
UK Release Date: 2003-06-09

Ah, to be young and gifted. Some might balk at the fact that Rooney seem well connected and are making their debut on a major label with a fairly large following right from the get-go, but listen up: without talent and hard work those things would never have come to pass. Rooney is the real deal, and this self-titled debut is perfect summer pop fun that aims to bring a little sophistication to the tried-and-true mainstream boredom, referencing the past and updating it for the present.

The quintet was founded by talented singer/songwriter/guitarist Robert Carmine, while still in high school (way back in 1999), and is comprised of Taylor Locke on guitar, Matt Winter on bass, Louie Stephens on keyboards and Ned Brower on drums. Brower is the senior member at 24, but the average age of a Rooney is only 19. Originally known as Ed Rooney (named for Jeffrey Jones' frantic principal character in the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off), the band already has opened for the likes of Weezer, The Strokes, The Donnas, OK Go, Pete Yorn, Phantom Planet and others and is about to head to Europe as part of the Lollapalooza tour.

So let me get all the connections and hype out of the way, so I can tell you about the music. Robert Carmine (formerly Robert Coppola Schwartzman) has already acted in two movies The Princess Diaries and The Virgin Suicides (the latter directed by his cousin Sofia Coppola), but like his older brother Jason (actor/drummer for Phantom Planet), the music comes first. His mom is actress Talia Shire, which means relations to Nicolas Cage and Francis Ford Coppola too. But let's get back to the music�

Imagine Ric Ocasek and Rivers Cuomo having an illicit love child . . . no, but seriously, the music of Robert Carmine leans heavily on The Cars and Weezer (who are not unrelated). Throw in a few other classic Britpop references here and there and you've got the fun sound of Rooney.

The single "Blueside" opens the CD, stylistically recalling The Beach Boys in an obvious way, the shuffling chorus and sweeping background harmonies hiding the darkness of the song itself, a veiled metaphor about suicide. "Stay Away" is more traditional lyric fare. He loves her, she doesn't know, he wants her to make the first move, he wants his friends to leave them alone. The Weezer vibe is most pronounced on "If It Were Up to Me", a traditional love song arranged in the manner of a "Buddy Holly".

The Cars is the most dominant influence here, though there are hints of Phantom Planet and others at times. "I'm Shakin'" is a very Cars-like tune, examining fears and nightmares in a light musical manner that belies the weight of the lyrics. "Simply Because" is another Cars-like tune, a clever rejection song, featuring fine organ from Louie Stephens and a great guitar lead from Taylor Locke. "I'm a Terrible Person" is very infectious (and check out that melody counterpoint at song's end), and Carmine's vocals really shine here.

Perhaps my favorite here is the acid indictment of "Popstars", wherein Carmine and company take on Britney and Justin and N'Sync, etc. as "unsophisticated money machines for the killers of rock and roll" in an affecting emotional manner.

"Daisy Duke" again uses The Cars' musical vernacular to get across a quite wonderful song that explores the romance behind a dominant/submissive relationship: "Bow down Daisy Duke, I'm much too rough with the way I phrase things / I'm sorry for cuffing you to my bathtub." "Sorry Sorry" is just good summer fun, any way you slice it. It's the tale of modern young romance (she's sitting all alone on a Saturday night with a Shirley Temple and a cellular phone) where he apologizes for making her life a living hell, right from the start. Love songs are what this season is about, and "That Girl Has Love" is a memorial for a very special girl and their real love prior to her taking her own life, awash in Cars/Weezer-type harmonies. "Losing All Control" is a little more sophisticated and lengthier ballad that closes out the CD, featuring nice rhythm section work from Matthew Winter on bass and Ned Brower on drums.

On the strength of Robert Carmine's vocals and songwriting abilities alone, things look auspicious for Rooney. The L.A. band (whose cover art is a rendition of the California State Flag) is already known for its hard work and entertaining live shows. With this impressive eponymous CD rife with sunshine and retro-rock feel and ripe for the hot beach days ahead, they should have a long career ahead of them.





The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.